FAA Basic Med – 6 Months Later, How is it Going?

** This is an opinion article. Do not use this article to determine if you are eligible to fly.

On May 1st, 2017, the world of aviation changed. The FAA instituted a new medical rule that allows general aviation pilots to fly as pilot in command without having an FAA-issued medical certificate.

If you are looking to buy an airplane and get flying, we can help. If you would like to know more about this program, keep reading.


The Program

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Fundamentally, this program lets certain pilots fly aircraft even if they do not have a current medical certificate. This only applies when a set of specific criteria are met. BasicMed is similar to a third class medical certificate. It is not a replacement for this certificate, however. The best way to think about it is as an alternative to this certification.

There are three qualifications that people must meet to get BasicMed. A pilot must have a valid driver’s license. This one is fairly straightforward. Next, they must have at least one medical certificate, issued by the FAA. If you have held a valid FAA medical certificate at any point after July 14th, 2006, you are in the clear. Finally, this program has several provision concerning special issuance. Those who have had certain mental, cardiac, or neurological health conditions will need a medical certificate with authorization for a special issuance. There is a different clearance process.


The Response


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Initially, the response was quite positive. This rule seemed helpful. After all, it was designed to help make the process of getting up in the air easier. As we have gained more distance from the initial excitement, some problems have emerged.

The first comes from the medical field. Not a lot of medical providers have experience with pilots and misunderstand the nature of the examination. This is not a summer camp physical. Dr. Clayton Cowl, President of the Civil Aviation Medical Association, has pointed out that some internists are skipping the visual acuity or color vision parts of the examination.

Doctors do not always understand how important that is for flying. Still, others view it as a liability issue. Some doctors do not want to take responsibility for a pilot, especially when they do not understand the ins and outs of flying.

Another problem that people have concerns insurance. Those with high deductibles may find that it is simply not cost-effective to go to a doctor and get their wings through the BasicMed program.

Part of the program involves an online course. It may help you understand why you ought not to be flying if you have a heart problem. Most pilots pretty much know this stuff. The efficiency of the course may still be in doubt.

The program includes mental illnesses as issues that may stop people from flying or require special issuance. There are people in the air right now who have these problems. It is not that they don’t know that it is disqualifying, it is that they think it shouldn’t be disqualifying. Some people have questioned whether taking medication should be a choice between flying and living a better life.

Yet another issue some people have been having concerns what and how you can fly. Those with BasicMed certification can only fly aircraft that are 6,000 pounds or less and are not authorized to carry more than six people. Curiously, there is no limit on engine power, the number of engines, or gear type. Pilots are not allowed to fly for compensation or hire, but flight instructors acting as pilots in command can operate under BasicMed. Lastly, pilots can only fly within the US.

There have been some positives from this. First, pilots have more autonomy over their decisions and can discuss their issues with their doctors. The FAA often took a while to come back with clearance, and this program expedites many steps of the process.

If you are looking to fly, why not buy an airplane with us? We offer a wide variety of airplanes that meet BasicMed’s qualifications. Come check out our listings today. If you are looking to learn more about the BasicMed program, you will want to see the AOPA’s pilot resources. They can give yu a more accurate look at whether you qualify for the program.

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